LAHORE - Though there is a ban on the issuance of prohibited-bore licences in the Punjab, the home department, on the special orders of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, has issued licences of about 400 such weapons to a private guards company for the security of foreigners working in the province on different projects.

A senior officer of the Punjab government said the issue of foreigners’ security was a major issue being considered by the Punjab government. He added, earlier, it had been decided that the Punjab police would make arrangements for the security of the foreigner engineers across the province. But on the refusal of the provincial police department to provide security to the foreigners, the Punjab government had to hire services of a private company, Askari Gurads, for this purpose.

On the request of the company for prohibited-bore licences, a summary was initiated by the home department a couple of days ago. The chief minister approved the summary and the department issued the licences. This was a special case while the ban on issuance of prohibited-bore weapons in the province is intact.

Responding to a query about formation of Specialized Protection Unit for Foreigners Security, the officer said, “Since setting up of the special force was under process, it was indispensable to hire services of a private company for the purpose”. He said the temporary setup would continue till the provincial government established the force. He said that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment that granted the provinces the authority to issue arms licences, the Punjab government issued a smaller number of licenses as compared to the other provinces. He held under the given circumstances the government issued licences to the commoners as they formed the first line of defence in crime prevention.

Citing a report, he said, the KP government issues such licences with validity across the country. On the other hand, the Punjab and Balochistan governments issued a small number of licenses, the officer claimed.

Another official said that over 1,100 NOCs had been issued for bulletproof vehicles during the PPP regime. Responding to a query, he affirmed some fake NOCs had been issued in the past. He said the Punjab government had taken a strict stance on the issuance of prohibited-bore licences. He confirmed that some private security companies throughout the province were running without having any licence. However, he said, some of these private security companies had received licences from the provincial home department, but they had expired and had not been got renewed. National Counterterrorism Authority (Nacta) had also shown concern over the security of the Chinese residing and working in Pakistan, the officer held.

–JAVED IQBAL